It’s a discussion many politicians would just as soon not have, but in the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., a few officeholders are speaking out, saying it is time to address the gun issue through more stringent laws that could curtail easy access to assault weapons, 100-round magazines and large caches of ammunition.
In Colorado, Democratic U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter have been outspoken almost since the day of the Aurora tragedy about their desire for more restrictive gun laws.
On July 24, just four days after the Aurora murders, DeGette called on Congress to ban the kinds of high-capacity ammunition magazines that helped enable the Aurora killer to shoot 70 people very quickly. A bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) earlier this session, HR 308, would do just that, but it has yet to make it out of committee.
A week later, DeGette and McCarthy introduced the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, which would make it more difficult for people to anonymously stockpile ammunition, as the Aurora killer had reportedly done. Among other things, the bill would require that dealers supply police with the names of anyone buying more than 1000 rounds of ammunition over a five-day period.
Asked about her motivations for speaking out almost immediately, DeGette said by phone that after grieving, her first thought was to ask herself what she could do to try and prevent things like this from happening again.
“When you see that kind of carnage, as a parent it makes you deeply sad, and we are all still grieving, but then you start to think, ‘is there anything you can do,'” she said.
DeGette said she is a firm supporter of the Second Amendment but that it doesn’t give people unlimited rights. “We don’t let people own shoulder-mounted rocket launchers. We don’t let people own nuclear devices. You have to ask if automatic assault rifles and hundred-round magazines have a role in society, and I don’t think they do.”
Some, including DeGette and Perlmutter, have called on Congress to ban assault weapons, as was done from 1994 to 2004.
“What we are doing now doesn’t work,” Perlmutter said by phone.
David Kopel, an adjunct law professor at the University of Denver and research director at free-market think-tank The Independence Institute, disagrees. He says that more stringent regulations on guns and ammunition will mainly have the effect of infringing on the rights of law-abiding hunters and sportspeople.
“There is nothing suspicious about buying a thousand rounds at a time. If you want to create a government list of people exercising their rights, you can do that, but if the police are supposed to investigate everyone who buys ammunition in bulk, they will have time to do nothing else,” Kopel said.
Tom Mauser has been calling for tougher gun regulations since his son was killed in the Columbine massacre.
“Critics say that if someone wants to get a gun, they will, but do we need to make it this easy?” Mauser asked. He acknowledges that gun rights are a contentious issue but says most people agree that the Second Amendment does not give people unlimited rights. “First, we have to agree to have a conversation. We have to get away from clich s and partisanship. A lot of people see it as black and white, but there is a lot of gray.”
Mauser doesn’t buy the argument that what we need is more people carrying more guns.
“Putting more guns into the hands of more people just isn’t working,” says Mauser. “People are pretty much the same everywhere. You have disgruntled employees everywhere. You have embittered spouses everywhere. You have unhappy students everywhere. You have mentally ill people everywhere. People around the world are not all that different from us, but they don’t kill each other with guns at the rate that Americans do. To say guns are not a factor is ridiculous. We make it easy for people to deal with their problems in a very tragic way.”
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